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COVID Blogs: Intensifying Medical Hazards for Persons with Disabilities

by Abha Khetarpal

The COVID-19 pandemic has disconcerted everyone on this planet. Varied scales of interventions, strategies and manoeuvres are being initiated and tried in alignment with the evolving situation. But worldwide, a community that is facing the brunt of this public health crisis is the disability community. People with disabilities, more than one billion people all over the world, are feeling all the more marginalized and isolated. Their plight is even worse in low income and underdeveloped countries where healthcare access is a real challenge for them.

Persons with disabilities are in many cases more susceptible to coronavirus infection, but systemic discrimination against people with disabilities remains interspersed, from testing to treatment.

Having a disability doesn’t necessarily put someone at a greater risk of getting the infection, but in certain disabilities or chronic conditions, the contagion may prove perilous. Those who are undergoing post-polio syndrome may show drastic changes in lung function and are more prone to pneumonia. In musculardystrophy, progressive weakness of respiratory muscles can result in varying degrees of breathing difficulty. Respiratory issues after spinal cord injury (SCI) is more severe in high cervical injuries, with low lung volumes and respiratory muscle weakness. People with psychosis are linked with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Those who have immune system disorders like Multiple Sclerosis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, HIV/AIDS, Lupus, and Sickle Cell Anaemia are at a greater risk of critical illness if they get infected with COVID-19, because the virus attacks the immune system. Epilepsy, being a neurological condition, is also included in a list of conditions that may increase the risk of serious COVID-19 infection. Health alerts, advisories, and hygiene measures are not accessible to all.

As a person with disability with weak lungs due to post polio syndrome, I have my own fears. With increase in number of cases and threat of community spread, demand for medical supplies and ventilators is increasing, and in case of rationing of supplies or treatment, I could be on the losing side of a doctor’s life-or-death decision.

In countries like India, lack of testing, inaccessible testing centres, inaccessible pharmacies, and exorbitant cost of treatment pose a greater threat for people with disabilities. Quarantine facilities present many of the same concerns, in addition to high exposure to other people, presenting reinfection risks. Moreover, persons with disabilities in India are not covered by healthcare insurance, leaving them with no option but reduced or limited access to healthcare services.

Exposure to healthcare barriers has accentuated their vulnerability to infection and complications, putting people with disabilities in a catch-22 situation. Apart from the distress caused by the contagion, secondary health conditions of disabled people are being totally neglected. The greater the degree of inaccessibility, the more that additional health conditions are exacerbated.

“I am more prone to produce ear wax and normally have to visit a healthcare facility to get it removed. This time I could not visit my hospital due to the lockdown. My personal attendant tried to remove it at home with cotton buds but because of spasticity of my muscles, the wax was pushed deeper inside and created a blockage. Now I have developed hearing loss and the pain is increasing every day. At present, the hospitals are restricting visitors amid the pandemic. She is neither able to visit the hospital nor do I have any access to doorstep medical services”, says Meenu Mani Arora. She is a resident of National Capital Territory of India, and is a woman with cerebral palsy. She uses a power wheelchair and needs assistance in everyday tasks. Inability to get medical help even for a minor procedure has lead to her hearing loss and severe ear infection.

Necessary physical therapies and occupational therapies are not available during lockdowns, as these are not included in essential services. As for my personal experience, in the absence of physical therapy I feel greater muscle stiffness and lack of blood circulation in my limbs.

Persons with blood disorders and Thalassemia patients have faced an acute shortage of blood in the blood banks across the country as blood donation drives have been called off due to lockdowns and red zone areas.

From these examples, we can imagine the level of suffering and challenges faced by hundreds of thousands of persons with disabilities due to non-availability of adequate medical facilities.

Controlling contagious disease requires immediate access to care, and a minimum of red tape and affordability barriers. Article 25 of United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) clearly mandates the State parties to recognize that persons with disabilities have the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health without any discrimination.

The key learning from COVID-19 is the significance of a strong public health service. We need a more sustainable and accountable health system that serves us all.

Links to documents referenced:

Report: 1 billion people with disabilities globally

Human rights expert, Catalina Devandas

ILAE: Epilepsy & COVID-19


Abha Khetarpal, an Indian woman, sitting in her power chair and smiling. She is wearing a beautiful orange tunic and deep red pants.About the author

Abha Khetarpal is a Counselor, writer, motivational speaker, teacher, and activist with polio from New Delhi, India. You can find more of her writing at Point of View, Sexuality and Disability , Feminism India, Medium, and Youth Ki Awaaz.

Social Media profiles:

Abha Khetarpal’s Facebook

Abha Khetarpal’s Twitter: @Khetarpalabha

Abha Khetarpal’s LinkedIn 


Would you like to write a blog post about your COVID-19 experiences as a person with a disability or a disability-led organization? Submit a blog pitch via this form.

If you are having technical issues or accessibility issues on this site, email wid@wid.org.

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Opportunity: Call for Writers

WID is seeking a variety of freelance writers. These writers are specialists in writing high-quality content on disability rights related issues and able to take assignments with short deadlines.

Subject matter experts needed are knowledgeable and practiced in writing about the intersections of disability, inclusion, accessibility, social justice, bias, marginalization and: employment, housing, operationalizing accessibility (both physical and digital), digital systems and tools, policy, research, international rights, health, emergencies, disasters and climate resilience.

Writing assignment possibilities include; grant proposals, blogs, website content, press releases, white papers, and other social media, general and targeted content for WID’s national and global content needs. We are especially interested in writers whose content is engaging, actionable, and uses research and data to create compelling stories for a very broad audience. Must be experienced in using a combination of person-first and identity-first language.

If you are a writer and would like to work on a project-by-project basis for one of the first global disability rights organizations founded and continually led by people with disabilities, please complete our intake form so that we may contact you.


For more opportunities to get involved with WID, visit our Opportunities page.

If you are having technical issues or accessibility issues on this site, email wid@wid.org.

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Mint green text on deep blue background, reads: National Council on Disability COVID-19 letter to HHS Office for Civil Rights

National Council on Disability COVID-19 letter to HHS Office for Civil Rights

March 18, 2020

Roger Severino
Director, Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington DC 20201

Dear Mr. Severino:

On behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), I write on a matter of urgency regarding non-discriminatory access to life-saving medical care for people with disabilities who contract COVID-19. Due to the concerns detailed in this letter regarding the predicted impact of COVID-19 on people with existing medical conditions coupled with predicted rationing of life-saving care, NCD requests that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) quickly issue a notice to physicians and hospitals specifying the applicability of non-discrimination requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act in making treatment decisions. When OCR talks, the medical community listens, and OCR has a window of opportunity now, before physicians become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, to provide necessary information to the medical community about the provision of non-discriminatory care.

Current projections show that the need for intensive medical care for victims of COVID-19 will far exceed the resources of the US healthcare system, and medical professionals are already predicting the certainty that emergency and intensive care will have to be rationed. The lack of resources to treat the population who will contract COVID-19 creates a deadly outlook for people with disabilities.  This is not hyperbole – the people most susceptible to COVID-19 have medical conditions, e.g., weakened immune systems, heart disease, diabetes – exactly the people who will be most impacted by emergency or intensive care rationing. Physicians will have to make decisions on who will get life-saving care, and who will not.

Unfortunately, as OCR knows, people with chronic illnesses and other disabilities have been  left behind, denied resources to survive, and as a result, have suffered great losses of life because of lack of emergency preparation that respects every life, and by outright discrimination by medical practitioners who, through ignorance of the law or due to the belief that people with disabilities are less valuable, and therefore less deserving of medical care, than those who are not. Such prejudice has fed into the belief that people with disabilities, especially the most weak and vulnerable, should be put out of their misery. NCD opposes these views and any medical actions that implicitly and explicitly disregard the dignity of the lives of people with disabilities. These beliefs have always been dangerous – but COVID-19 raises NCD’s concerns to an unprecedented level.

OCR is aware of the historic and persistent discrimination against people with disabilities in healthcare. We documented this issue in our recent reports on bioethics and disability, explaining that the lives of persons with disabilities continue to be devalued in the medical profession due to pervasive negative biases and inaccurate assumptions. The belief that people with disabilities have a lesser quality of life and are less valuable to society, has led to deadly consequences – physicians choosing to provide medically scarce resources to non-disabled or healthier people – a violation of human rights, civil rights and a reinforcement of the belief that people with disabilities are lesser-than and less deserving of life itself.[1] Indeed, recent articles regarding the likely response to COVID-19 published by major media outlets are already predicting – unapologetically – that the lack of capacity of the US healthcare system is going to result in rationing of life-saving care for people with chronic illnesses and pre-existing disabilities.[2] Such discourse  has deep historical foundations that has led to discrimination and access to healthcare, including life-saving care, for people disabilities throughout the nation’s history. Once again, society, including physicians, is already accepting the conclusion that this group will be denied the right to life due to a lack of resources. Once again, it is a forgone conclusion that people with disabilities are the most expendable group. Once again, as in previous natural disasters and medical crises, people with disabilities are being told to prepare to die.

OCR has recognized the long-standing discrimination against people with disabilities, taking action to address discrimination on a case by case basis, but the world has changed – we are experiencing a quickly progressing medical crisis which will disproportionately impact people with disabilities on a broad scale. OCR should rapidly head off what could be yet another time in US history when people with disabilities are left to die because medical decisions remain infused with disability bias or because physicians are not aware of their responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Affordable Care Act. More evidence of the need for immediate OCR action is found in a cursory review of State protocols for standards of medical care for times of crisis – like a pandemic – that show that people with existing disabilities will be, if the plans remain the same, discriminated against in the provision of COVID-19 care.[3]

Because this historic pandemic disproportionately threatens the lives of people with disabilities, NCD strongly urges OCR to immediately issue a notice to the nation’s medical providers of their obligations for non-discriminatory medical care under the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Affordable Care Act. The notice should include a statement on the historic and deep-seated biases and stereotypes about people with disabilities that have resulted in eugenics and lack of life-saving care, ask physicians to be mindful of this when making medical treatment decisions, and make clear that, even in an environment where health care resources are limited, the civil rights of people with disabilities cannot be suspended or limited.

Thank you for your work to ensure access to medical care for all people and your efforts to address disability discrimination in health care. OCR’s efforts have improved the lives of people with disabilities and your leadership is valued and appreciated.

If you wish to discuss this with me directly I would be delighted to do that at your convenience. However, if a member of your team would like to discuss this with a member of my team please have them contact Lisa Grubb, Executive Director and CEO at lgrubb@ncd.gov, Joan Durocher, General Counsel and Director of Policy at jdurocher@ncd.gov, and  Ana Torres-Davis, Senior Attorney-Advisor at  attoresdavis@ncd.gov.

Respectfully,

Neil Romano
Chairman

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End the Atrocities at Border Detention Facilities

The World Institute on Disability (WID) joins with organizations and individuals from across the country calling for an end to the atrocities being committed at south Texas detention facilities, more accurately called concentration camps or, at minimum, internment camps as addressed in the July report of the Office of the Inspector General from the US Department of Homeland Security. The degree of inhumanity on display is frightening and devastating.

We respectfully request that the Commission immediately conduct a comprehensive in loco visit to the United States and Mexico to consider actions and policies by both States that are having dramatic negative impacts on the human rights of migrants, particularly asylum-seeking Central Americans who transit through Mexico to reach the United States. We ask that the visit be followed by a report that considers the full extent of human rights violations experienced by migrants in Mexico and the United States. We further request that, after this visit, the Commission engage in ongoing, robust monitoring of the treatment of migrants in the region. This monitoring should include hearings before the Commission during its sessions, additional visits to the region—including the southern border of Mexico and Central America—, development of standards relating to the treatment of migrants “safe third country” and prompt consideration of precautionary measures requests and individual complaints.

WID believes that the mistreatment of asylum-seekers at the border is related to a broader cultural decay that has taken root in US society.

The Nonprofit Quarterly states, “We could cite many examples. The revealing of sexist and racist posts by customs officials on Facebook is one obvious example. We also recall that it was less than two years ago when Nazis openly marched in the streets in Charlottesville.”

And, where in all this inhumane process is the inclusion of people with disabilities in receiving much-needed services and/or medical care? When over 20% of the world’s population has a disability, people being held forcibly at our southern border are disproportionally more likely to have a disability or to acquire a disabling condition as a result of their treatment placing them in much need of disability-related services and justice.

WID joins our “civil society partners in knowing we must declare racial superiority as antithetical” to our common humanity and that our leadership supports racial, disability and economic justice in our organizations, our communities and in society as a whole.

WID demands that immigrants with disabilities be given rights granted under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), be evaluated for their access needs and receive effective and timely service.

Comments on this statement may be directed to Anita S. Aaron, Executive Director/CEO, World Institute on Disability, anita@wid.org.

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A futuristic robot thinking, surrounded by math equations

AI AND ACCESSIBILITY

Artificial Intelligence (AI) or artificial narrow intelligence (ANI), artificial general intelligence (AGI), artificial super intelligence (ASI) is a critical issue for people with disabilities and it will only grow in its impact. The World Institute on Disability (WID) is aware that AI has already brought many remarkable tools to disability access and inclusion; what has already been achieved illuminates the promise that AI can facilitate more accessible content for people with disabilities.

For example, software is now learning how to recognize and respond to images, sounds, and linguistic expressions, which have opened up new opportunities for people with many disabilities. When the data sets used are designed for full inclusion, tools like those outlined below will positively change the landscape for people with disabilities:

  • For individuals who are deaf or have hearing loss, auto-captioning with AI.
  • For people who are unable to drive, autonomous cars built with Universal Design principles.
  • For people who are blind or have low vision, facial recognition and image recognition to support interaction with the environment.
  • For people with cognitive disabilities, language use to facilitate comprehension.
  • For job seekers with disabilities, with an unemployment rate of more than twice their non-disabled peers, outcomes can change with the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions which will support job seekers and employees in developing their professional skills, improve workplace culture and expand inclusive hiring.

The concerns of WID, many corporations and public and private sector organizations focus on the critical need for AI standards for privacy, ethics and bias so that full inclusion of persons with disabilities in the evolution of AI occurs. Many of us foresee compounded risks of AI use unless there is commitment to and prioritization of privacy, ethics and bias.  For example:

  • Models learning from biased data may reproduce and continue historical biases;
  • Training data may under represent outlier populations, which often include people with disabilities, and therefore thwart or deny full inclusion;
  • Building inclusive data sets will prove essential for developing effective solutions, but also hold challenges such as requiring people to waive privacy rights;
  • Data collection, machine learning training protocols and programming may not include representation from individuals with disabilities or professionals in the field with the appropriate knowledge to plan for full inclusion; and,
  • Safety, security, bias and accessibility may be a lower priority than speed.

So, while AI is a great opportunity, it is also a great threat to full inclusion for people with disabilities.  Most researchers, accessibility experts, and disability rights organizations agree that building inclusive data sets is one of the greatest challenges for researchers and that AI accessibility should be a base level requirement for AI standards.

WID also recommends that persons with expertise in disability culture and accessibility be engaged early in the AI standards development, as well as those with expertise in recognizing and addressing implicit bias and those who can set guidance for developing inclusive data sets.  Inclusion of those with appropriate expertise will go far to achieve full inclusion of persons with disabilities in future data sets.

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WID Supports the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act

Statement from Anita Shafer Aaron, WID Executive Director/CEO

Feb 01, 2019, Berkeley, CA

On January 31, Rep. Bobby Scott, Sen. Bob Casey, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers introduced the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, which provides states, service providers, sub-minimum wage certificate holders, and other agencies with the resources to help workers with disabilities transition into competitive, integrated employment. This legislation is designed to strengthen and enhance the disability employment service delivery systems throughout states, while sub-minimum wages- currently allowed under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act-are to be phased out over a six-year period.

The World Institute on Disability (WID) supports this legislation. We are strongly committed to competitive, integrated employment in mainstream environments for people with disabilities and further that they receive fair and equitable wages for their work.

The employment rate for people with disabilities has been flat for over forty years (hovering around 33%) and many of those who are employed are in sub-minimum wage jobs. It is time to promote legislation that intends to make people with disabilities an equal and included part of the American labor pool.

WID’s mission in communities and nations worldwide is to eliminate barriers to full social integration and increase employment, economic security, and health care for persons with disabilities. WID’s signature program-WID E3-addresses the need for integrated, competitive employment options for people with disabilities.

Employment & Economic Empowerment

The Labor Force Participation Rate for the general public is 77%. For people with disabilities, that rate has been hovering around 33% for the last 40+ years. This is in spite of 40+ years of numerous employment initiatives, laws, and programs created to promote people with disabilities entering the workforce. The question is: what’s missing?

The American labor pool-which includes captains of industry, business owners, employees, and prospective job seekers-needs a “first-step” educational effort designed to improve both the competitive employment expectations and knowledge of people with disabilities. WID E3 is such an effort.

WID E3 offers online resources and technical assistance designed to improve competitive employment outcomes for both youth and adults with disabilities. WID E3 fills the gap between where people might be and where other programs usually start. It is basic training, and when implemented, it’s a bridge.

WID E3 logo-a white Globe and E3 in white letters

The Employment Empowerment module creates a new disability employment perspective and teaches fundamental competitive employment skills. This instruction builds self-confidence and the knowledge necessary to become a competitive job applicant and employee who happens to have a disability.

The Economic Empowerment module shares new asset development and financial planning strategies, including the book EQUITY: Asset Building Strategies for People with Disabilities, A Guide to Financial Empowerment, developed by WID’s internal financial specialists. This section of WID E3 also offers a comprehensive guide for ABLE accounts to help people with disabilities navigate the ABLE program and plan for the future.

The Benefits Empowerment module offers disability benefits planning, training, and resources, including state-specific Disability Benefits 101 (DB101) online tools. Understanding the impact on federal and state benefits allows for accurate, informed decision-making about employment.

The goals of the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act can be achieved with the Employment and Economic Empowerment programs WID has developed, and we are confident these tools will assist the workforce as a whole in becoming an inclusive, integrated space for employees with disabilities.

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HLAA Convention 2018

WID staff member, Josephine Schallehn, attended the 2018 Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) convention. The following are her highlights of the event.

This year, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) convention in Minneapolis, MN, which offers myriad educational workshops on hearing loss, in addition to showcasing the latest technology and services for people with hearing loss. And needless to say, all presentations were real-time captioned, and the presentation rooms were looped, so attendees could listen to the workshops using the T-coil setting on their hearing aids or cochlear implants. (Learn more about loops here.)

A man speaks to the audience, captions onscreen to his right, an ASL interpreter woman to his left
The research symposium, “Listening in Noise,” with Andrew Oxenham, M.D. moderating and presenting | Photo by WID

One of the highlights of the convention was attending the research symposium, which focused on current and future approaches to one of the most vexing and frustrating issues that people with hearing loss encounter: how to listen and understand speech in noisy environments, a challenge that is also often referred to as the “cocktail noise problem.” Five experts from various fields represented on current research that may improve the circuitry used in hearing aids and cochlear implants to reduce/cancel noise. While the presentations were extremely informative and valuable and made excellent use of combining auditory and visual materials, they were nevertheless quite scientific. And the total length of the symposium was three hours.

Luckily, HLAA hosted an excellent one-hour webinar in August that succinctly recapped the crucial points presenters had made and how their research and findings may impact future development of hearing aids and cochlear implants. The consumer-friendly webinar can be replayed at any time, and it even includes a version of one of my favorite short videos shown during the symposium, i.e., a dancing outer hair cell.  The link to the webinar also allows for downloading the PDF used during the webinar.

Three people stand onstage and hold an award
Barbara Kelly of HLAA (center) with the rep from Galapro to her left and Kyle Wright from The Shubert Organization to her right | Photo by HLAA

“Radical Hospitality: Technology Solutions for Audience Inclusivity” was the other highlight and a total surprise at that because if The Shubert Organization and Galapro hadn’t been one of the awardees honored during the opening session of the convention, I wouldn’t have found out about how the app Galapro was developed. And I also wouldn’t have changed my workshop selection for Saturday morning and enjoyed a very informative and funny presentation given by Kyle Wright, Director of Digital Projects at The Shubert Organization.

The Shubert Organization, which owns the majority of theaters on Broadway, uses the Galapro to make live theater and opera performances accessible to everyone.  Theatergoers can download Galapro’s app to their own mobile devices and access subtitles in multiple languages, audio descriptions, closed captioning, and amplification during the performance. I haven’t been to a live performance in decades because, as a hard-of-hearing individual, not being able to follow a live performance is a major concern for me. However, Galapro promises to make live performances accessible to all. Most theaters and live performance venues likely have not heard about Galapro, and here is an excellent advocacy opportunity to let them know that the app exists by pointing them to The Shubert Organization and Kyle Wright if they are interested in finding out what is involved in bringing this cost-effective, mobile, and simple solution to their venues.

A crowded room with several presentation screens, an ASL interpreter, and captioning on the screens
One of the workshops | Photo by WID

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Job Announcement: Projects Coordinator

Note: This position has been filled. Thank you for your interest.

ABOUT WID:

The World Institute on Disability (WID) is an internationally recognized nonprofit public policy center. WID’s mission, in communities and nations worldwide, is to eliminate barriers to full social integration and increase employment, economic security, and health care for persons with disabilities. WID creates innovative programs and tools; conducts research, public education, training, and advocacy campaigns; and provides technical assistance.

Currently WID operates with a staff of 10 employees, a variety of interns and volunteers, and numerous partners and collaborators; with corporate headquarters located at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, California. Since its founding in 1983, WID has earned a reputation for high-quality research and public education on a wide range of issues. The Board of Directors and staff, over half of whom are people with disabilities, are respected national leaders in the disability rights field as well as in industry, government, and social services. This enables WID to bring a cross-disability perspective to the policy arena. Information on WID’s programs can be found at www.wid.org.

POSITION SUMMARY:

The Projects Coordinator position directly supports the Director of Operations and the daily operations of the agency by responding to information and referral requests, assisting in WID front office/reception area related duties and providing reasonable accommodation upon request to staff with disabilities. Additionally, this position will be trained to be a researcher to proctor and work on WIDs disability usability testing program. This position assists in special event planning, including event logistics, registration, and donor acknowledgements. This position assists in the development and distribution of website, print, video and social media communication collateral. In addition, the Projects Coordinator will be assigned to various contract/grant project work that includes research and service initiatives.

HOURS:

40 hours per week

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Experience using MS Office Suite, dropbox, Gmail and the Internet
  • Professional writing and oral communication skills
  • Experience using office equipment and phones
  • Friendly, conscientious, organized, detail oriented, punctual
  • Works well independently, takes initiative
  • Quick learner, ability to problem solve
  • Ability to travel for project related assignments 

PREFERENCES: 

  • Experience creating PowerPoint documents and visual presentations of complex data
  • Experience using Internet sites to efficiently arrange, purchase and track multiple travel itineraries
  • Experience proofreading, formatting and mailing newsletter articles using email campaign software such as MailChimp
  • Experience with online survey software (such as Survey Gizmo) and data analysis
  • Experience with content management systems, WordPress experience preferable
  • Video production experience preferred
  • Experience with event planning and marketing
  • Knowledge of and/or personal experience with Independent Living history and philosophy
  • Experience performing personal assistance services to people with disabilities

REPORTING RELATIONSHIP:

Director of Operations

STATUS:  

Non-Exempt, full-time, benefits

COMPENSATION:

$40,000.00 annual salary

APPLICATION PROCESS:

Send Resume, Cover letter and References to: World Institute on Disability

EMAIL: kat@wid.org (WID acknowledges receipt of applications by email only)

Application Deadline: June 29, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. PDT

Proposed Start Date: Mid-July

REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS:

  • Address reasonable accommodation requests for the application/interview process to kat@wid.org.
  • WID promotes a scent/chemical free environment. To support this effort, WID asks that all applicants refrain from wearing scented products while in its office.

TRAVEL/RELOCATION:

WID cannot cover the cost of travel or relocation, but encourages all interested applicants to apply.

The World Institute on Disability is an equal opportunity employer with a commitment to diversity. Individuals will not be discriminated against regardless of race, ethnicity, religion (creed), national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability or veteran status, and other personal characteristics.

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Several open books, piled on top of each other with pencils resting inside

Empowering People with Disabilities to Achieve their Financial Goals with TD Bank

The topic of financial empowerment has increasingly influenced economic discourse in recent years, as a growing number of Americans experience financial insecurity. One particular group of Americans, however, receives nominal attention when it comes to financial empowerment and these are individuals with disabilities.

Research shows that providing people of all abilities and backgrounds with the financial knowledge, tools, access and resources they need to make better financial decisions is not only a social good, it’s also economically expedient, increasing labor participation, while reducing costly government benefits.

In their ground-breaking work, Financial Literacy and Economic Outcomes: Evidence and Policy Implications, Mitchell and Lusardi suggest that nearly one-third of wealth inequality can be explained by the financial-knowledge gap. According to the authors, this gap could increase as consumers confront ever-more sophisticated financial products and services.

Given that around 56.7 million people — 19 percent of the population – have a disability, according to the 2010 census; nearly 16 million Americans with a disability age 25 or older have at least some college education; and over two million have annual incomes over $50,000 (more here), providing financial education and access to people with disabilities is vital to facilitating a healthier, more inclusive economy.

Illuminating a history of invisibility

People with disabilities have faced economic exclusion throughout history, largely owing to discriminatory attitudes and policies. And 28 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals with disabilities continue to battle against rampant societal and institutionalized bias.

Frequently stereotyped as unproductive and/or costly to accommodate, individuals with disabilities have suffered higher rates of unemployment along with lower levels of income and savings.

A 2015 survey from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation shows that people with disabilities reported lower scores on a financial literacy test than their non-disabled counterparts (44% vs. 53% average) and had lower self-perceived levels of financial knowledge (70% vs. 81%). People with disabilities are also more than twice as likely to find it “very difficult” to cover expenses and bills (23% vs. 9%), and twice as likely to be unbanked (12% vs. 6%), according to leading research.

Exacerbating the equity gap, many government disability benefit programs cap savings at $2,000, a clear disincentive for individuals with disabilities to become financially self-sufficient.

Addressing this inequity demands a radical shift in public perception along with educational tools and opportunities that empower individuals with disabilities to lead more independent and productive lives.

The power of progress

Thanks to growing awareness around the economic advantages of financial empowerment, the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act is one of a handful of progressive policies that is enabling individuals with disabilities to save money for the first time in history, without jeopardizing their Federal benefits.  Governmental agencies, nonprofits and purpose-driven banks (including TD Bank, Bank of America, Citi and others) have begun introducing programs and services to better serve current and future customers with disabilities.

In fact, TD Bank recently launched an Adaptive Financial Education program that offers a variety of on-site seminars along with interactive tools, tutorials and games that enable “individuals with diverse abilities” and their caregivers to navigate their financial lives more independently and successfully. This program teaches the fundamentals of banking to a segment of people that has been woefully underserved.

As a direct consequence of these new policies and programs, individuals with disabilities are able to work more and save more, eliminate overdraft fees, and improve their credit scores. They are purchasing more homes, establishing college savings plans for themselves and their children, and leading more fulfilling lives.

Given this trend, I can’t wait to see the 2020 census results.

Of this I am sure: When we, as a country, financially empower people with disabilities, we create a more vibrant and inclusive economy for all.

Written by Thomas Foley, J.D., Managing Director of the World Institute on Disability; published on the WID website April 16, 2018.

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Job Announcement: Executive Secretary to the Executive Director and Board of Directors

Note: This position has been filled. Thank you for your interest.

ABOUT WID:

The World Institute on Disability (WID) is an internationally recognized nonprofit public policy center. WID’s mission in communities and nations worldwide is to eliminate barriers to full social integration and increase employment, economic security and health care for persons with disabilities. WID creates innovative programs and tools; conducts research, public education, training and advocacy campaigns and provides technical assistance.

Currently, WID operates with a staff of 12 employees, many collaborators, consultants, interns and regular volunteers and is located at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley, California. Since its founding in 1983, WID has earned a reputation for high-quality research and public education on a wide range of issues. The board of directors and staff, over half of whom are people with disabilities, are respected national leaders in the disability rights field, as well as in industry, government and social services. This enables WID to bring a cross-disability perspective to the policy arena. Information on WID’s programs can be found at www.wid.org.

DESCRIPTION:

The goal of the Executive Secretary to the Executive Director and Board of Directors position is to enable the work of the board and executive director to occur in a smooth and seamless manner to support WID’s ability to carry out its mission. This position provides support to the WID Board of Directors and Executive Director by working at the direction of and in conjunction with the Executive Director, focusing on resource development, communications and public relations.

POSITION SUMMARY:

Support to Board of Directors

  • Prepare agendas and write, draft or gather briefing materials for quarterly and special board and committee meetings;
  • Schedule meetings of the Executive Director and various board committees and members;
  • Handle travel arrangements for board members and the Executive Director as needed;
  • Handle all reasonable accommodation requests by board members and Executive Director;
  • Attend, in person or by phone, board and executive committee meetings. Write and publish minutes. Maintain corporate minute book and electronic files;
  • Plan and carry out meeting preparations and logistical arrangements, including meeting locations, hotel sites, transportation companies, restaurants and audio/visual companies as needed;
  • Manage communication with board members on resource development activities;
  • Update board website when website is complete;
  • Prepare action items and follow up after each meeting;
  • Plan annual Board Orientation and Continuing Education programs for directors;
  • Draft appropriate correspondence for Chairperson and/or Executive Director;
  • Prepare briefing papers, outlines, Chairperson’s agenda, etc. for Chairperson;
  • Manage annual request to board members for completion of conflicts of interest statements;
  • Plan committee calendar and timing of meetings for standing and ad hoc committees;
  • Attend, by phone, committee meetings. Write and publish minutes or summarize meetings for consent calendar;
  • Follow up with committee chairs/members on action items; and
  • Prepare written advance materials for reporting to the Board of Directors.

Support to Executive Director

  • Provide reasonable accommodation support to Executive Director as needed;
  • Manage calendar, travel arrangements, appointments, etc.;
  • Assist with material development associated with grant proposals, partnering agreement, letters of intent and collaboration;
  • Oversee the management of contact lists associated with resource development and fundraising activities such as special events, mailings, donor correspondence, etc.;
  • Develop an annual calendar of events related to board meetings, WID special events and grants submissions and reporting, including all timelines for all activities associated with these items;
  • Serve as editor and publicist of WID publications, reports, proposals, etc.; and
  • Other duties as assigned by the Executive Director to successfully support the agenda of the organization.

LOCATION:

The position is intended to be carried out remotely with standardized hours in relation to the Pacific Time Zone.

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Strong writing skills, including composition and proofreading;
  • Strong oral communication skills;
  • Highly organized and detail oriented; and
  • Associate of Arts degree with a minimum of three years of experience working with boards and executive leadership in an administrative assistant or executive secretary role.

PREFERENCES: 

  • Bachelors of Arts degree; and
  • Personal or professional experience with the Independent Living Movement.

REPORTING RELATIONSHIP:

Executive Director

STATUS:

Non-Exempt, Part-Time

COMPENSATION:

$25-$30/hour for an average of 30 hours/week (some flexibility in time required), plus benefits

APPLICATION PROCESS:

Send resume, cover letter, writing sample and references to: kat@wid.org
RE: Secretary for the Board of Directors and Executive Director Search

Headquarters:

World Institute on Disability
3075 Adeline Street, Suite 155
Berkeley, CA  94703

Proposed Start Date:

March 1, 2018, or when filled

REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS:

  • Address reasonable accommodation requests for the application/interview process to the Human Resources office (kat@wid.org); and
  • WID promotes a scent/chemical free environment. To support this effort, WID asks that all applicants refrain from wearing scented products while in its office.

TRAVEL/RELOCATION:

WID cannot cover the cost of travel or relocation but encourages all interested applicants to apply.

All persons—including people with disabilities, elders, women, and people of racial and ethnic minority—are encouraged to apply.

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